R. SRIRAM has been teaching Yoga since 1977. He is a disciple of T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V.Desikachar, and he now lives and teaches Yoga in Germany. During the Yoga4Unity 2022 program, he conducted a masterclass on breath as the link between body and mind. Here are the first two parts of this wonderful masterclass.
About Mantra and Breath
The word “mantra” is about speaking, producing a sound. But it is not just producing a sound, as you are also listening to it. A mantra only has strength and only becomes powerful if you chant it and listen to the sound that is being chanted.
It is both the voice as an instrument of the body, a karmendriya, an action organ, as well as hearing as a sense organ. Both go together. What is special about chanting is that you are coordinating the words, coordinating the sounds, making sure that the flow of the word, the sounds, is beautiful and unstrained. It is almost like you are modulating the breath when you chant. So chanting a mantra well is equivalent to good breathing.
Looking at the breath itself, when you do conscious breathing, what we call Ujjayi in Yoga, you not only use the throat to produce the sound but you also listen to it. Ujjayi is not about producing a big sound, nor is any other breathing technique in Yoga. It is about producing a reverberation that you can listen to. It is reverberation plus listening, as is the case of mantra.
Therefore, breath is very close to mantra. It brings a spiritual quality to something very mundane, like an Asana practice, where we are “merely” moving and adjusting the body.
Tuning the Trunk
Coming back to Asana practice, if you are doing Trikonasana or Sirsasana or Veerabadrasana, try to breathe slowly and consciously. Where is the sound coming from? It is coming from your trunk. Your trunk is very important, not just your throat. Without your chest –the expansion of the chest giving it strength, and the air in the chest reverberating – the sound will not come.
Whether you are breathing or making a sound, you are using the whole trunk. When you do a posture, whether it is a headstand, a Samasthiti or a balanced posture standing on one leg, you are mainly using the trunk. The leg is just supporting the body. It is always about the trunk in Asanas, as the trunk is like an instrument. It is like a veena or sitar, or any instrument that you tune. You are tuning it with the breath and the sound you produce, not with some sort of muscular external adjustment and alignment.
Make sure the tone or the tune of the breath or sound that emanates when you are doing a posture is correct, has the right reverberation.
So, when you go into Trikonasana, focus on your trunk. The trunk is in a diagonal twist posture, so let it feel like a tuned instrument. It doesn’t matter if your hand is a little bit this way or that. Don’t worry about unnecessary details. You are not doing gymnastics, you are not doing Western physical training, you are doing something about the trunk, about the Merudanda as we call it in Yoga.
To discover more, please enjoy the masterclass at:
R. Sriram has been working as a Yoga teacher in Germany since 1988. For years, Sriram taught under the guidance of Sri T.K.V.Desikachar at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai and contributed to the development of the institute.